Publisher: Merrimack Media
Tour Organizer: Lady Reader's Bookstuff Blog Tours
Release Date: January 22, 2015
Determined to overcome her difficult past, Anna Starr lands a coveted job at the nation's biggest celebrity magazine in the center of the New York City power scene. She learns early on to make it on her own, and through sheer force of will she does. But frustration sets in when the dark side of tabloid journalism starts to poke through, and she gets duped while dating slicker-than-thou city boys.
Amidst a sea of cocktail parties, Anna meets rising art star Damien Wolfe. Their connection is dangerous, intense, and passionate beyond her imagination. He sees her in a way that she has never seen herself, setting her on a journey toward self-discovery—understanding what it means to be truly loved for the first time in her life. But she may lose it all when her blind ambition and his dark past lead to a crisis that changes everything.
Let us start with the Basics of Ava...
Who are you?
I’m Ava Cummings.
Tell us about yourself.
I spent more than 10 years as a magazine editor at some of the biggest and best-known magazines in the world. She began my career at ELLE, where I fetched coffee, fell in love with fashion, and, eventually, became a full-fledged editor, covering Hollywood and bringing in stories about bold, complicated women that were making a difference in the world.
Soon enough, though, the rise of celebrity culture in the early 2000s lured my to Us Weekly and then In Touch, where I helped create the raging celebrity news category that exists today. I saw a parallel between soap operas and celebrity magazines and built storylines that drew readers back each week to get the next installment in the lives of the stars that they loved and idolized. A knack and a passion for dramatic storytelling had been solidified.
I’ve always been a storyteller, whether weaving celebrity tales together or crafting complex, emotional plotlines for her characters. Inspired by the sweep-you-off-your-feet happy endings of fairy tales, the unbelievable headlines she reads in the news, and the quirky personalities that I’ve encountered in both the real world and on reality TV, I use it all to create fast moving, entertaining, passionate stories. It has been my dream to become a romance novelist since my early days editing love advice columns in women’s magazines.
To balance the frenetic pace of weekly magazines, I found Yoga and became a trained instructor. I’ve always been committed to health and wellness. I still practice daily and revel in its centering and balancing effects, as I juggle a career as a marketing director, raising two children, and my role as a budding romance novelist. I live with my family in the suburbs of Boston. Sweet Muse is my first novel.
A bit about what you have written…
Sweet Muse is best described as 50 Shades of Grey meets The Devil Wears Prada. It’s a contemporary erotic romance set in the glamour of New York City and the center of the tabloid and celebrity magazine publishing world.
What you are working on right now.
Right now, I’m in the very beginning stages of the sequel to Sweet Muse. I’m mulling the plot and thinking about what needs to happen next. I hope to start writing soon!
What are your earliest book-related memories?
Judy Blume was the first author that really pulled me into books. I read everything she wrote, multiple times. As a later teen, I got really into Sylvia Plath. I read The Bell Jar numerous times and wrote my senior high school thesis about it and I remember I got an A!
What are your three favorite books?
That’s like torture asking a writer to answer this question!! It’s like asking a chef to pick his favorite food. Oy. Okay, if I had to choose, I think I would say…well, I love the author Jojo Moyes. I have devoured everything she’s written. If I had to choose a favorite of hers, I’d have to say, Me Before You. The Great Gatsby would be my second choice. God, I loved and still love that book. The glamour, the complexity, the love, the human condition, the tragedy, the city as a backdrop - it had everything! That’s a book I’ve read many times. For my final choice, I think I’ll pick, When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron. I’m a yoga devotee, used to be a yoga teacher and this was one of the books we had to read during my teacher training. It changed my life and my outlook on it. Pema Chodron is a Buddhist monk and the wisdom in this book really spoke to me.
How many books to do you read at any given time?
I’m pretty much a one at a time kind of girl - I like to finish one before I move on. But I do tear through about a book a week, which considering my schedule is kinda nuts! But I often wake up in the middle of the night and read then.
What are you reading now?
Right now, I’m reading Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. So many of my friends have raved about it, I’m giving it a try. It’s not sucking me in like many people have said as yet, but I’m enjoying it. I absolutely love historical romance, so it should be right up my alley.
Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
I’m in my happy place.
To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
There is so much to read that I don’t often reread...
How likely are you to read a book that has been recommended to you?
Very likely! My friends and I talk books all the time, and I know my friends who have similar tastes and always take their recommendations. Some of my favorite books I’ve read have been recommended to me. My all-time favorite series was recommended to me by my neighbor, who is also a fan of historical fiction. It’s the story of Napoleon’s wife, Josephine... The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B., by Sandra Gulland. It was amazing! I was so bereft when I finished the last book...
How likely are you to recommend a book (that is not yours)?
I do all the time. I’m a voracious reader. I love talking about books and my friends and I share recommendations all the time.
What do you look for in a good book?
I have a very eclectic taste in books. I love historical novels -- whether set in England, India, China, France, etc. History is such a vivid backdrop. Some historical romance, some not. I love Amy Tan, Lisa See, Phillipa Gregory, Anne Perry... I just finished an amazing 3 book series on Josephine, Napolean's wife, by Sandra Gulland. One of my favorite recent reads. I was so sad when I finished the last book.
I love chick lit -- Jane Green, Sophie Kinsella, loved the Bridget Jones series when it first came out...fun, easy reading, like eating popcorn. And women's fiction in general, one of my recent favorites was Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes. I was sobbing at the end!
I also like fast paced actions and mysteries -- a huge Carl Hiasson fan. I enjoy the occasional John Grisham. I'm a fan of extreme non-fiction personal stories/memoirs, too -- Into the Wild, even Eat Pray Love; and love good Wall Street nonfiction. The abuse of power and sleaze is just so crazy....The Wolf of Wall Street, Tales from the Boom Boom Room.
In the romance category, I loved 50 Shades and was inspired (like so many) to write romance after reading it. I really enjoy Abbi Glines. She is so good at creating that intensity in a relationship, that closeness. And then I've read lots of random romances that I find on Amazon. I'll read almost any romance, in all types of categories. Can’t get enough fairytale endings.
I suppose I'm influenced by all different types of storytelling. I like the action packed, fast moving element and have tried to incorporate that into my book. I like the first-person emotional, acerbic, honest, complicated women voices in chick lit and tried use that, as well. And I have always loved romance and any book with a fairy tale ending. I also worked in celebrity magazines for years so I'm a real pop culture junky and also have a real appreciation for lowbrow entertainment!
Why do you write?
Hmmm…this is actually a complex question. Writing is hard and difficult and frustrating and slow, and for all of those reasons I wonder sometimes why I do it. But I do it because I have to, because even with all of those things, I love it. It makes me feel good. It helps me makes sense of the world and it also gives me a break from the world. I love diving into my characters’ lives and creating their world. That’s a wonderful place to be. I felt so sad when I finished Sweet Muse and didn’t have those characters floating around in my head anymore. And when you look at the world and experience it with a lens of looking for and finding inspiration that will seep into your novels, it gives you a new, fresh perspective, and I love that. For that reason, I’m a studier of people, language and conversation, movements, and places. I feel like I’m a sponge, always soaking up what’s around me to wring out into my novels in different ways.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
Well, I already am so many other things! I’m a marketer, a mom, a wife, a yoga teacher. I’m probably too many things already! But I’m always seeking more and wanting to learn…I think I’ll always be many things. It’s just my nature.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
Really from everywhere. As I said above, I’m a sponge, always soaking up what’s around me to wring out into my novels in different ways. I’m a studier of people, language and conversation, movements, and places. I look at the world and experience it with a lens of looking for and finding inspiration that will seep into my novels, it gives me a new, fresh perspective, and I love that.
What has writing taught you about yourself?
For me, writing has a lot of similarities to the spiritual tenets of Yoga– it requires patience, for you to let go of expectations, to do for yourself and no one else, it is a mirror in some ways and requires you to look at yourself and see the real you. It requires mountains of inner strength that you have to dig deep to find. Writing for me has been a journey to getting to know me better and that’s been a great, even if hard, process.
What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
There are so many challenges for writers today. I don’t even know where to begin. It is so much harder than I thought it would be to start out. Just when I thought the hard part was over – I actually finished and published my book! I realized that my work had just begun. I had to market and tell the world it’s out there. And it’s very difficult to cut through and be seen, be found. Finding your audience is hard…it’s such a crowded market. But I’ve been working with the social reading platform Wattpad, and I can’t say enough how awesome it is for finding and connecting with readers and getting feedback on your work. It’s such a supportive community of voracious readers and writers. Those were the first fans of my book and I just love them for their feedback and belief and support of Sweet Muse. Honestly, I would never have even published the book without it!
Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but not at the time?
I probably made every single rookie mistake! I didn’t outline enough in the beginning and had to go back many, many times and fix plot inconsistencies, redevelop characters, and change this, that…everything! I must have rewritten my first chapter 100 times!
How do you deal with your fan base?
I absolutely love my fans! Through Wattpad, I get to chat with them, get to know them, hear their thoughts about every move my characters make, check out their books, and really just get to know them. They are the most supportive group and I can’t say enough about Wattpad.
Finish this sentence: my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
...to know...that I absolutely LOVE vegetables. I grew up on a farm and crave them like most people do chocolate (I know, crazy.) That I hate oysters, clams, mussels (all those slimy shellfish) to my husband’s chagrin. Ugh, gives me the heebs just thinking about the slimy gelatinous goo. That my ideal day would be spent on the beach with friends and family, then a hike in the woods, and a BBQ on my back deck with all my friends gathered around and the kids playing in the yard. That I hate the word “pimple.” That I secretly want my son to be a mama’s boy (did I just admit that?!). That I love to laugh. It feeds my soul. And my husband cracks me up—it’s one of the many reasons why I love him. I’m a painfully early riser. I’m talking 5am here. But those early hours are my most productive working time. Okay, I’ve probably told you too much!
Anything else we should know.
I absolutely love word searches! So geeky, I know. But I kill at them and would trample anyone in a word search off! Game on!
About the Author
Ava Cummings spent more than 10 years as an editor at some of the biggest and best-known magazines in the world. She fetched coffee, fell in love with fashion, and eventually became a full-fledged editor, covering Hollywood and bringing in stories about bold women that were making a difference in the world. She has spun together the sweep-you-off-your-feet happy endings of fairy tales, the unbelievable headlines she reads in the news, and the quirky personalities that she’s encountered in both the real world and on reality TV in her first novel, Sweet Muse. Ava lives in the leafy suburbs of Boston with her husband and two children.